1985 – 1990
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
Words – Christian Abbott
There are few films to reach the ‘must-see’ status of the Hollywood canon, far fewer for an entire series – Back To The Future is one of those few.
Released in 1985, it was an overnight instant classic, beloved by audiences from then and to this day. Science-fiction is often seen as a love or hate genre with little grey area to explore, Back To The Future is an exemption to this – it is true a rare jewel in cinema, a timeless classic that will continue to endure for decades to come.
The original opens with one of the most iconic character introductions of all time – seeing Marty stumble through the door of Doc’s garage as he pokes and plays with his amazing (insane) inventions. Not only does it brilliantly show us the childish wonder of Marty, but the mad charm of Doctor Emmet Brown. It is now impossible to talk about time travel, let alone depictions in cinema, without talking about Back To The Future.
Of course the two are played brilliantly by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd, respectively. One of cinema’s most iconic duo’s, one completely of its time and all the better for it. They captured the imagination and hearts of a generation and endure to this day as some of Hollywoods most endearing characters.
When Robert Zemeckis, director and writer, first came up with the idea, he was venturing into an aspect of science-fiction so many other filmmakers would rather avoid.
Time travel can often be a slippery slope of a convoluted narrative and plot holes. Yet, he found a way of not only making it simple – but fun. It’s an absolute blast, the sort of story you’d dream about being part of as a kid, coupled with fancy dress to boot. Witnessing Marty first go back to the 1950s is still a sight to behold, with that, it’s the same but different feeling capturing the moment.
Seeing Marty try to undo his mistakes in the past by helping his own parents fall in love sounds wonderfully insane on the page – and it is on screen. Hollywood has struggled to capture the same sense of charm as it does in this original. The mere idea of fading away after your past has been changed has far reached beyond the frames of this film – as has most of the iconic imagery. From the DeLorean to the self-tying shoes, it all precedes the films with immense cultural weight.
Of course the head-spinning time altering goodness doesn’t end there. Following the staggering success of the first film, Zemeckis began work on two back-to-back sequels which were released in 1989 and 1990. The ambition of these films is gargantuan – an interwoven narrative that goes from the Wild West to the distant future (2015…).
The title lines have new meaning in the sequel as Marty heads to a utopian/dystopian future of Jaws 19 and a premonition of a Trump-like presidency.
Alongside that was the aforementioned Wild West – an unlawful time of guns, crime and pink cowboy suits. Seeing Marty attempt to behave like what he thought a cowboy should is still hilarious to this day. And, getting to see the DeLorean ride the rails and charge through the desert is still an awesome sight.
The extent of how these films have permeated our culture is sobering. From sketches to parody, to references to musical inspiration – Back To The Future is all around us and will continue to be so for long after today.
Some call these films one of the best franchises in cinema history, to call it that would be to simply state the obvious. You have either seen Back To The Future or you haven’t – you’re all the more for having done so.
Back To The Future brings us back to a time when Hollywood was more innocent, most playful and more risk-taking. It could only have been made exactly when it had. When asked about the potential of a remake, Zemeckis replied simply but eloquently… “Oh God, no”.
I think I speak for us all when I say… thank you, for everything.
A screening of the Back To The Future Trilogy will be taking place at Sheffield’s historic Abbeydale Picture House.
All 3 films – one day – one ticket.
Bank Holiday Sunday August 26th.
Details here – bit.ly/2KZqMc4